LIFELINE: Community organizations, residents chip in to save homeless shelter

Published 7:25 pm Tuesday, December 1, 2015

In the wake of a possibility that Beaufort County’s only homeless shelter could close its doors due to financial problems, organizations and people have stepped forward to offer support. The most recent lifeline is a call for 70 area churches to join in helping to save the shelter.

Several weeks ago, members of local churches sent out letters to the churches, asking for congregations to take up a love offering to benefit the shelter and dedicate Sunday, Nov. 29, as “Zion Shelter Sunday,” according to Dr. Frank Sheldon, a local surgeon and member of Old Ford Church of Christ.

“We don’t know what will happen, but we speak from scripture — Matthew 25:35-36 — and we hope churches will take up a donation for the shelter because they’re really stressed for money,” Sheldon said. “(Old Ford) made a donation and we leave it in the Lords’ hands. It was one of those things we thought we would just try.”

Sheldon said Old Ford took up a love offering that yielded just short of $900, a donation that is being sent directly to the shelter, as was requested in the letters sent out.

Since September, after shelter managers announced Zion Shelter was in danger of closing, they saw an increase in donations, enough to ensure its continued service to the county’s homeless for the next six months or so, according to Harlan McKendrick, shelter treasurer.

McKendrick said the shelter has received around $30,000 since September when the matter was made public.

“Obviously, we’ve been going for 30 years,” McKendrick said. “We’ve had to depend on donations all the way along. We really depend on getting a steady flow of contributions from the community.”

According to McKendrick, the shelter receives regular food distribution via the Food Bank of the Albemarle, most of which is reasonably priced and costs little money. But it also has operating costs such as heating and cooling and other utilities, McKendrick said.

Other funding received includes a $12,500 one-time appropriation from the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners, several turkeys to feed the homeless over Thanksgiving from area resident Joseph Savage, regular food donations from Eagle’s Wings food pantry and a $200 donation from a neighbor of shelter director Robert Harris.

Harris said more donations are needed to provide for homeless people in the area, however. Many people the shelter serves have family members who are members of local churches, Harris said.

“If anyone would just give something — it doesn’t have to be every month; if we had a few people to do that, (we would be in a better position financially),” Harris said. “We always depend on churches such as Grace Lutheran, First Presbyterian and St. Peter’s Episcopal Church. I think (the donations from the community are) a very wonderful thing, and it’s something that should’ve been recognized before now. The shelter was there, running on its own, basically. … But we need money for operating costs.”

McKendrick said Zion Shelter’s board and staff are hopeful it will find a way, through what it has been given, to continue operating the shelter for the homeless population of Beaufort County and surrounding areas.